True Fantasy Live Online. Marvel Universe Online. They’re two formerly high-profile games that were to be big MMOs on Xbox platforms, but they never came to fruition.
Shane Kim, former general manager of Microsoft Game Studios who’s now a corporate VP, told Edge, "I’ll admit MGS has not had success in the MMO space, and that happened under my leadership, so I take full responsibility. It’s a tough and challenging space that’s evolving all the time – a lot of shifting sands. We haven’t been able to crack the code."
Microsoft was going to publish Marvel Universe Online as a first-party title, originally planned as an Xbox 360-to-PC cross-platform title. Rumors of the game’s cancellation floated around for months before Microsoft officially confirmed that development was canned.
True Fantasy Live Online was an MMO in development for the original Xbox by RPG gurus Level-5, the Japanese company behind the Dark Cloud series. Complications led to the cancellation of that game as well.
Kim added, "Game development is hard enough as it is – in the MMO space you’re talking an even bigger investment, basically double. So it does add that layer of complexity – we just haven’t found that right mix.
"…I think we’ve made the right decision not to proceed with those things like the Marvel MMO. And that’s tough, both for customers looking forward to it and teams working on it. That said, we haven’t been successful, but there’s nothing to say those titles can’t be successful on 360."
South Korea-based MMO firm NCsoft has criticized Microsoft’s Xbox Live service for being too closed for an MMO to work properly, and is currently developing MMOs for PS3. The lack of a standard hard drive is also a turnoff for Xbox 360 MMOs.
"There’s a lot of ongoing work," Kim said. "I think those are real challenges, and I know that our third-party folks want to enable all kinds of content and we work very hard to create a stable and secure environment on Xbox 360 and that’s where you see that tension. I’m sure we can solve that problem though in a way that is good for MMO developers and customers because we want that content: and we’re getting very close. But we’re late with that, and we feel bad about that."
For a massive feature with interviews from top Microsoft gaming execs, check out the latest issue of Edge, coming Thursday.